Tova O'Brien 'forced to work in a bar' if restraint of trade clause enforced by Discovery

Former Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien is moving to Mediaworks. Photo: Supplied
Former Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien is moving to Mediaworks. Photo: Supplied
Former Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien would have to "sit at home doing nothing" for three months, her lawyer said, if her former employer Discovery made her carry out a restraint of trade.

She has taken the company that owns TV3 to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) hoping to escape a three-month restraint of trade clause in her contract, after she resigned from Newshub to work on a new newstalk radio station at Mediaworks.

The clause in effect would mean she could not begin work with her new employer for three months.

At a hearing today, O'Brien's lawyer Charlotte Parkhill argued that "taking Tova out of the market, making her sit at home doing nothing" would mean she "can't work anywhere".

But Newshub's director of news Sarah Bristow said: "Discovery is concerned she is taking with her intimate knowledge and information she has built up at Newshub, and will use that potentially to benefit Mediaworks.

"She ... holds a key role at Newshub and is going to a direct competitor of Newshub in another key role."

ERA member Marija Urlich said she couldn't see any "give or compromise" on Bristow's behalf.

Bristow reinforced previously made comments that a sudden departure of a political editor is "extremely disruptive" to a newsroom.

She said a sudden departure would leave Newshub without a political editor and "effectively leave us one person down in the gallery at the time".

In terms of former Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch taking on the role as political editor, Bristow said the company needs "time to be able to build her up as the new face for political politics".

Lynch starts in the new role on Monday, Bristow said.

She also confirmed her belief that Newshub and Mediaworks are in "direct competition".

She said the media landscape has changed significantly since Newshub was bought by Discovery.

"A large portion of the broadcasting landscape were owned by one company, so we're dealing with a different environment."

The launch date for O'Brien's new radio show Today FM hasn't been confirmed but is rumoured to be this month. If so, it would coincide with the return of TV3's new AM Show, expected back on air in February.

O'Brien often appeared on The AM Show and was broadcast on both TV3 and Magic Talk radio - harking back to when MediaWorks owned both the radio and TV networks.

Restraint of trade clauses are designed to prevent employees from jumping ship to work for a competitor.

In this case, Discovery will have to convince the Employment Relations Authority that O'Brien's new radio show is similar to her former role as a TV political editor, Newsroom reports.

O'Brien announced her resignation at the beginning of November last year in time to finish at Discovery before Christmas, take a month's leave, and finish out her contract in time for Today FM's launch by the end of this month. But then Discovery told her it would be enforcing the three-month restraint clause in her contract.

The hearing comes after the failure of mediation between the parties.




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